We are here today supporting a brave teenager who was physically assaulted by Fr. Joe Ross and is now being emotionally assaulted by Archbishop Robert Carlson.
Many have told us in SNAP that they’re worried about the two recent subpoenas served on us by Catholic officials. They’re worried about the crippling, expensive, irrelevant and far-reaching demands for documents – like every page we have, going back nearly 25 years, that mentions any St. Louis priest, living or dead, accused or not.
We’re worried too. But today, we have two bigger worries. First, we’re worried about kids who may be being sexually violated right now by Fr. Joe Ross. Second, we’re worried about this courageous teenager whose most private communications could be posted on the internet if Archbishop Carlson has his way.
This girl came to us seeking consolation, counseling, and comfort. We gave it to her. Now, Carlson’s defense lawyers want every e mail and card and note and letter we may have from her, communication in which she likely poured out her heart, soul, fears and shame – all the devastation she felt and feels because a trusted priest and a trusted Catholic hierarchy betrayed her, years ago as a child and even now as an adult.
Shame on Archbishop Carlson. Shame on other St. Louis Catholic employees who silently and passively cooperate with his mean-spirited and intimidating assault on sex crime victims.
We believe this subpoena - while purportedly focused on an already wounded teenager - will also have a terribly chilling effect on anyone who ever turns to SNAP for help. It’s designed to silence victims, witnesses, whistleblowers, police, prosecutors, journalists and others who support and counsel and advocate for sex crime victims.
It takes tremendous courage for a survivor to break their silence. Many do so only because they have been assured that everything they say will be completely confidential. Many have never told their spouses, their parents, their children. Calling a support group like SNAP is a chance to talk about their abuse with someone who will understand, who will not judge, who will listen and help them find resources and expose predators and protect kids. If victims’ privacy can’t be guaranteed, many will never tell. That will leave many child molesters walking free and hurting others.
As best we can tell, this girl is the youngest victim ever in Missouri to step forward and take civil action against a pedophile priest and his corrupt church supervisors. She wants to protect other kids from Fr. Joe Ross. She wants to heal and move forward in her life. We applaud her for her courage, compassion and persistence in safeguarding others and recovering herself.
We tell our children if someone hurts you, come to us tell us and we will help. This brave teenager did just that. She should be praised, not attacked. She needs and deserves her privacy. And all Catholics deserve a Catholic hierarchy that respects the privacy of deeply wounded and still suffering victims of sexual assaults by priests, nuns, seminarians and bishops.